A mother of three has issued a stern warning to members of the public.
She wants them to consult a lawyer prior to committing to the purchase of anything that involves a significant amount of money, such as land.
The warning comes from Irae Kubik-Strickland. She said she has had to learn the hard way after a land deal turned sour.
Her problems started last year in March when she saw a quarter acre advertised for sale in Lotopa for $90,000.
Mrs. Strickland told the Samoa Observer that as a growing family, she saw the need to build their own home for her children.
With that in mind, she made the first deposit of $40,000 with E-Trade Pacific, a company owned by Tui Vaai Jr.
The company serves as a consultancy firm for people who want to sell their properties.
According to Mrs. Strickland, there was an agreement of monthly payments to pay off the remaining $50,000 for a period of five months.
But things took a turn for the worst in July when Mrs. Strickland and her family took a ride to see the parcel of land.
“When we got there, we found out that someone was already building a house on the compound and there was a fence surrounding the area,” she said.
Confused and furious, Mrs. Strickland contacted Mr, Tui Vaai for an explanation who said told her he was surprised as well.
Contacted for a comment, Mr. Tui Vaai told the Samoa Observer he was selling the land for a customer, and he was surprised to find the owner had already sold the land and did not bother to inform him.
“We can’t control that,” he said. “At the same time, it was out of our hands and these things do happen in Samoa, and we have to return the money back.”
According to Mrs. Strickland they have already paid more than $76,000 to the company and she wanted a full refund.
“But that did not happen,” she said. “I’ve had to hunt him down to get my money back, but I was given the run around.”
She said from July to October last year, she didn't get any of her money from the company. It followed phone calls and random visits to the office which amounted to nothing.
“In late October he signed over two cheques each were in the amount of$35,000. Sadly both cheques bounced.”
Mrs. Strickland then demanded that her money be handed over in cash. The company obliged and she was given payments of $2,000, $5,000 and there was one time she got a bulk payment of $20,000.
From July to December 2016, the company was able to pay back $34,400. Because the money was not paid in full, she opted to have the negotiations on record and that’s when then they both signed an agreement letter.
According to the letter that was signed by both parties, on 30 December 2016 Mr. Tui Vaai was to pay back $42,000 in full as soon as he “makes a sale or otherwise to be paid within six weeks with minimum weekly payments each Friday of $7,000WST.
“Any default payments will accrue interest at the weekly rate of $15% of the balance,” says the agreement.
Mrs. Strickland explained the reason the interest was set at that amount was because she hoped that Tui would just pay her what’s owed to her, as she was trying to purchase another land for her family.
However that did not happen. She said that as of March 2017, the interest for the $42,000 Tui owes has ballooned so that the total amount owed is now “$90,000.”
Mrs. Strickland said she saw that Mr. Tui Vaai was selling his car, she asked him to turn the car over to pay for the interest accrued and he did.
The BMW was turned over with a letter of ownership change to Mrs. Strickland.
“This is our savings for so many years, and we wanted to buy land and build a house for our kids,” she said.
“But I’m really saddened that all our hard work put into our savings went down the drain.
“Its true we got some of our money back, but it came in pieces.
“I have given Tui many chances to do the right thing and pay us back, but it appears he didn’t care about our sweat and our hard work...he didn’t care a bout the people he has hurt.”
She said they've taken actions on this matter but wants the public to be mindful to consider getting an attorney involved when it comes to these types of transactions.
“It’s better to pay an attorney, a couple of hundreds to assure a smooth and honest process than to go through what me and my family went through,” said Mrs. Strickland.
Mr. Tui Vaai assured the Samoa Observer that he was the agent for a customer, and he was selling the land on their behalf.
“It’s my problem and I have trusted the wrong people,” he said.
“I’m paying (the money) back.... at least I’m paying it back.
“The thing is, the interest is too much, and a lot of people owe me money as well but I don’t go and do this.
“I mean if I was to come to you tell you of the people that owes me a lot more, I don't do that. If she’s going to do that, how is she getting her money back?
“I don't get it. We don't have much more left owed to her, it’s just that her interest was too much.
“At that time, I just wanted to get it over with, but she knows, my dad got sick, and he passed away and I was there (New Zealand) for two months.”